While two NBA scouts, unprompted, recently described Clancy as "aggressive," he never will be the s.o.b. Bibby was. He's content to leave the scowling to football players. He's the son of Sam, a former defensive lineman who played 11 years in the NFL and two in the USFL. The elder Sam, now defensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints, recalls leaning on the shoulder of six-year-old Sam Jr., whose support he needed to get from the house to the car on Mondays after NFL games. Small wonder the son gravitated toward hoops. "He could see how football was kicking my ass," says the father.
Being the son of an NFL player didn't mean young Sam was a child of privilege, however. When their parents separated in 1992, Sam, Samantha and their younger brother, Samario, stayed with Anetta. She and Sam Sr. divorced in 1994, and times got tough. "My savings went from $50,000 to zero," recalls Anetta. The bank foreclosed on her house, forcing her to move with the kids into an apartment "roughly the size of the game room in our old house," she says. "It was the worst time of our lives."
After a year of working two jobs (in human resources at Sears by day, in telemarketing in the evening), she joined a construction union in Cleveland as a general laborer. The work was hard—she did jobs such as tearing asbestos out of old buildings—but the money was much better.
Sam Jr. attended St. Edward High, a private, all-boys' school in Lakewood, Ohio, where Steve Logan, who now stars at Cincinnati, was a teammate. In the first game of Sam Jr.'s senior year, against nationally ranked Mount Zion Academy, Sam was sucker-punched during a fracas in the second half. "That was it," recalls his father. "They released the fury. Sam took over that game." St. Edward won in overtime.
Clancy signed with USC but he wasn't an immediate star, averaging a little more than five points and five rebounds despite starting 22 games as a freshman. His stats improved every year, though, and he led the Trojans to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last season. But this year, after his flirtation with the NBA, his game has taken a leap forward. "Coming back was the best decision I ever made," he says. "Even last season I wouldn't have envisioned the success that I'm having, or that the team is having."
His one big deficiency has been academic performance. Not exactly a Rhodes Scholar candidate to begin with—"I get mostly C's," he says—his focus was further blurred when his mother's breast cancer was discovered in October. "My mom means everything to me," says Clancy, "and when I got that news, school kind of took a backseat. But she's doing great now."
"I'm kicking chemo in the butt," Anetta reports, and that news helps Clancy find perspective. His name was recently struck from the list of candidates for a prestigious player-of-the-year award, the result of his failure to maintain a 2.0 average. News of his grades preceded him to Berkeley. During warmups before the game at Cal on Feb. 23, a few hundred Golden Bears fans took to chanting Clancy's GPA: "One-point-nine!"
Dribbling over to within a few feet of his tormentors, Clancy looked one in the eye and issued a brief rejoinder: "Yeah, one-point-nine million."